Welcome to SDM’s Guide to Food + Drink, a series created to help you decide on where to eat in San Diego—curated by the team at San Diego Magazine.
We won’t pretend this isn’t a huge honor. Alicia Gwynn and Kania Barnette (“Chef K”) are giving us an inside look at their family recipe for chicken, the one Alicia perfected for her husband, Tony Gwynn. He of the great laugh and divining-rod bat. The chicken that became catnip in the Padres’ clubhouse.
On the rare occasion Tony went 0-for-4, the players would joke that Alicia hadn’t cooked that day. The chicken she’d cook for fans when he was a coach at SDSU. People would drive from all over to see Tony and the team. Some drove out just for Alicia’s cooking.
And the beer? The great one named in his honor, .394 from Alesmith.
Alicia was born in Beaufort, South Carolina and raised in Southern California. Her mom was first-generation Gullah culture. Mom would take the bus to work, work long days, come home and cook for her eight kids. So Alicia started cooking to give her some rest. “We didn’t have much but food was plentiful because I was able to cook year round from my mother’s garden,” she says.
Tony’s family came from Tennessee. A bit more of a fried-food culture. He politely asked his wife if she’d give fried chicken a go. She tried seven recipes, and that seventh was it. It was so good she launched a food truck, would wake up at 3AM, cook, drive the truck out into the streets herself. That fried chicken launched a whole brand, Gwynn Foods.
And now, she’s brought a young talent to help her take Gwynn Foods into market in new ways. Chef K is a force. Personality for days, a talent in the kitchen but also a knack for new ideas and brands and marketing what the family built. She’s been with the Gwynns for 20 years. Family. When Alicia decided she wanted to get back into the food world, she called her.
It’s through food we carry on family tradition, convey a culture, bring loved ones into a room.
Gwynn Foods is that.